The volunteer border-patrol group Minuteman Project is suing a California city for barring the group from the local Patriots’ Day Parade.

The group’s founder, Jim Gilchrist – who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year in Orange County, California – says the city of Laguna Beach Patriot’s Day Parade Association rejected a request Jan. 18 to have a float in the event, because the group is political and he is “too controversial.”

The application – rejected just an hour after submission – was turned in two days before the deadline, the group pointed out in its complaint, filed yesterday in Orange County Superior Court by the public-interest firm Lively & Ackerman

For the March 4 event, the Minutemen proposed a float with dancers performing a choreographed act with binoculars and folding chairs to imitate its volunteer border patrollers. Another group of actors were to be in Revolutionary War costumes. The float would be followed by about 400 volunteers, including many military veterans.

The parade association said it rejected the entry on political grounds, citing a policy of not allowing groups with a religious or political affiliation or message.

But the complaint points out the group Peace Vigil, which has been accepted for this year’s parade, is a well-known political advocacy organization that regularly protests the Iraq war. Another group in the parade, La Playa, openly supports controversial day-labor centers for illegal immigrants and is associated with a church.

“They say the Minuteman Project is controversial, but so is the gay group and so is the vigil for peace,” Gilchrist told the Associated Press earlier this week. “… “I have no objection to any of these other groups, so why are they discriminating against us?”

The complaint, which names Peace Vigil and La Playa as nominal defendants, asserts their participation in the parade is “unfair and misleading” to the general public.

“It is false and misleading for them to represent to the association that they are nonpolitical,” the complaint says. “Or, in the alternative, it is unfair and deceptive for the association to claim that it does not do business with political/religious organizations, but yet allow these two groups to participate.”

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